September 26, 2014

To Those Claiming God is Anti-Libertarian in the Old Testament

By In Articles, Philosophy

There are many who claim that whereas Jesus might have represented love and peace, the “God of the Old Testament” acted contrary to private property rights, that is, he was anti-libertarianism due to His grand displays of power, taking of human life at His whim, uprooting various people groups, and guiding the minds of His created beings (without their express permission).  They point to wiping out the human race, various acts of actively hardening hearts, and destroying cities.  Truly, they argue, this God acts contrarily to the very legal order which we claim to support! This is a common atheistic or agnostic complaint against those, like us, who are both Reformed Christians as well as libertarians. There are many these days (it wasn’t always so) in the libertarian movement who despise religion, churches, and the very idea of a God.  Below are thoughts against this foolish mindset.

“Libertarianism” in our present context importantly refers specifically to the political theory based on the principles and deductions of individual property rights.

If they claim that the OT Christian God was anti-libertarian, they must assume that this God exists for the sake of their argument against the Biblical Christian (such as myself). If they assume, for the sake of their argument, that this God exists, they must concede my Christian position that the OT as a whole explains and demonstrates the nature of that God.  They must do this because they are arguing against me by examining the internal consistency of my argument, and this is my position. If they want to challenge the consistency of my God, they must take Him on His own terms. Therefore, they must also concede that the God of the OT is taught to have ownership of all the earth, if they wish to stay consistent with their first assumption. Further, they must also understand that God reveals Himself as owning all life because He created it, and hence He has the highest moral claim to end that life.

If God owns the world and its inhabitants, then is it not a libertarian principle that He have the legal and moral ability to do with the property and creation what He wills?

Now, I do in no way purport to argue that God must submit to the laws that He gives to His creation.  God is not bound by the precepts intended for the human race.  However, there is no contradiction between the rights of the property-owner in libertarian theory, and the actions of God throughout the Scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments.  For God owns all things and can therefore make use of the property in any manner that He sees fit. No life belongs ultimately to man, no physical resources find their final legal possession in anyone other than the Lord who reigns supremely in the heavens.  Cities do not belong to earthy inhabitants but to the God who formed these inhabitants in the womb.

How can a God who owns all life and property be guilty of murdering or stealing?  How can He be accused of invading a human body if that body is only being lent to, but is not ultimately owned by, the person who presently occupies it?  Who is man that He should shake his fist and threaten a lawsuit against the perfect and holy Judge from which all rightfulness and wrongfulness flow?

In libertarian property-rights theory, the property owner has the legal right to choose how to act on his property and what ends toward which he wants to employ this property. If the Old Testament states that this world and creation are ultimately God’s, then to assume that the God of the OT exists for the sake of the current argument is also to assume that this God acts well within the libertarian property ownership framework.  Perhaps this speaks powerfully to the divine origin of private property theory within our earthly context.

Therefore, it is not the conclusion that the anti-Christian despises in his crusade against OT theology, rather, it is the premise (that the God of the Bible exists). Unfortunately, his claim that the OT God is anti-libertarian is an improper and illogical claim. They would do well to state their more foundational presupposition: which is that the God in the OT does not exist.

And this is what Scripture expects them to say, for “the fool says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • TJ

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. I heartily agree. Those who attack what God said in the Old Testament commit a logical fallacy; if God does not exist, then what does it matter what Moses claimed he said? Either way, their premise begins with the belief that it’s not true, and therefore, the whole debate over what he commanded is pointless.

    The concept of God owning property in everything that exists is absolutely critical in understanding the way he operates throughout the Bible and today, and it certainly helps grasp what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans about the clay saying to the claymaker “why did you make me like this?”

    • reformedlibertarian

      Thanks, good follow up thoughts as well. They try to criticize our God and find an inconsistency in our logic, without actually understanding God as He has revealed Himself.